Published on June 5, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on June 21, 2024 at 8:00

Skin warts are small, rough, skin-coloured growths (some have tiny black dots in them) that are round or oval in shape. They usually occur on the following areas:

  • Hands
  • Soles of the feet
  • Knees
  • Elbows

Warts are usually painless, unless they are on the soles of the feet, making walking uncomfortable, or if they cause a deformity of the nail. Most warts are harmless and do not pose a health risk.


Skin warts are caused by a virus that is spread through direct contact with a contaminated surface (e.g., locker room floor or public shower) or, to a lesser extent, through direct skin-to-skin contact with a wart.

For a wart to develop, the virus must penetrate the skin. It often enters the body through an area of broken skin such as a tiny cut, or through skin softened by water. If it is not eliminated by the immune system, the virus causes skin cells to multiply rapidly, forming a wart. It can take up to six months after exposure to the virus for a wart to appear.


Treatment is not always necessary. In fact, most warts go away on their own within two years. However, your health care provider may recommend a treatment to prevent a wart from getting bigger or spreading to other parts of the body.

Wart treatments do not always work because most aim to destroy the wart, but fail to kill the virus responsible. Treatment can last several weeks or months, and warts can come back once treatment is completed; a good amount of patience is required.

Below are at-home wart treatments for the hands and feet:

  • Application of over-the-counter salicylic acid (e.g., Soluver, Compound W) (recommended).
    • Soak the wart in water for at least 5 minutes and dry the area completely.
    • Remove the dead skin with an emery board or pumice stone.
    • Protect the surrounding skin with petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline) or nail polish.
    • Apply the salicylic acid to the wart, cover with a dry dressing if needed.
    • Repeat once or twice daily until all warts disappear. Treatment may take a few weeks.
    • There are also dressings containing salicylic acid which can be changed every other day, until healing.
    • In the event of severe irritation, stop treatment for a few days.
  • While it is not clear whether duct tape is an effective treatment, this technique could help you get rid of the wart.
    • Cover the skin with duct tape and leave on for 6 days.
    • Remove the tape, soak the skin in warm water for at least 5 minutes, and use an emery board or pumice stone to remove the dead skin.
    • Leave the skin uncovered for one night, then reapply the tape for another six nights.

If at-home treatments are not effective, your health care provider may prescribe wart medication or remove the wart using one of the following techniques:

  • Cryotherapy, which involves destroying (or "burning off") the wart by freezing the skin
  • Surgery (curettage, electrosurgery or laser treatment)

It is important to mention any health condition (e.g., diabetes, poor circulation) you may have to your health care provider so that he or she can adapt the treatment to suit your needs.

When should I see a medical professional?

See your doctor if your wart:

  • Does not improve with treatment
  • Causes pain
  • Is causing a deformify of a nail
  • Is bleeding, is showing signs of infection (redness or pus) or is speading to other parts of the body
  • Is located on your genitals
  • Is located on the sole of a foot and is making walking uncomfortable
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